The conditions of an average airport terminal seem perfectly tailored to make it impossible to get anything productive done. Think crowds, noise, terrible Wi-Fi, and not enough seating (to say nothing of electrical outlets). If you’re traveling for business and feeling pressed to stay on top of things at the home office as well as the objectives of your trip, time spent in a terminal before your flight or waiting through a long layover can feel wasted and draining. This is why an airport departure lounge can be a life-saver for dedicated business travelers. Shep’s Chief Technology Officer, Rafael Torres, gave us his insights about what you’ll find at an airport departure lounge and what you can expect to get accomplished there.
Where Can You Find an Airport Departure Lounge?
Major airlines tend to place airport departure lounges at their hubs and most important destinations. There may also be airport-run lounges or independent lounges available at the airports where you’ll be traveling. If you’re flying on a first-class or business-class ticket, or are a high-level member of your airline’s loyalty program, the first thing to do is to check your airline’s website. You’ll find a list of lounges available, as well as information on the amenities offered at each one. Even when airlines don’t run their own lounges at a particular location, they may offer access to their premium passengers and loyalty club members through reciprocal agreements with other airlines in networks such as Star Alliance or oneworld. Do some research as you’re planning your trip to determine the location of lounges you can access.
How Do You Get Access to an Airport Departure Lounge?
Airport lounge access has become somewhat easier to get in recent years. Even if you’re not flying first- or business-class or an elite member of an airline’s loyalty club, it is often still possible to gain access to a departure lounge. Some airlines will allow you to purchase either an annual pass giving you access to their lounges, or even single-day passes. Independently operated airport lounges or airport-run lounges tend to sell day passes as well. Third-party vendors such as membership-based PriorityPass or single-purchase LoungeBuddy can also get you in the door at lounges that are part of their networks. Finally, if you have an upper-level airline rewards credit card, lounge access may be included in your card benefits.
Check ahead to see if your fare class, frequent-flyer status, or credit card will allow you to access a lounge at your location without any additional fee. If not, it still may be worthwhile to pay for access, depending on how long you have to spend in the airport and what you can accomplish with the right place to work.
What Do You Get in an Airport Departure Lounge?
Rafael has worked out of lounges run by Virgin Australia, Alitalia, Delta, Emirates, Korean Airlines, and Turkish Airlines in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia. He noted some important commonalities among the airline-run lounges he’s visited, as well as some individual differences worth knowing about.
All of them had important basic features: comfortable seating, restrooms stocked with amenities like hand towels and moisturizers, free food and drinks, free Wi-Fi, arrival/departure screens so you can monitor the status of your upcoming flight, world newspapers, and quiet areas appropriate for taking a call. They also made public announcements of flight departures, and in some, attendants would come to get you when it was time for your flight. These complimentary benefits allow business travelers to settle in and take advantage of their time before or in between flights.
A few of the lounges included additional perks. The lounges he visited in LAX, Sydney, Istanbul, and Atlanta International had showers, and the ones in Istanbul and Seoul had sleeping rooms, perfect for travelers needing to rejuvenate during a long layover. The Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul also included massage chairs, which made the list of things he’d like to see in more lounges.
The arrangement common to most airport lounges makes them a good place to set up your laptop to check email and get some work done or take a call or two. If your travel plans intersect with those of a colleague or business contact, a lounge can also work to touch base in person while you’re on the road. One important caveat, according to Rafael, is depending on the time of day or how many other people are using the lounge, designated call areas may not be as quiet as you need them to be. In his opinion, some of the lounges would not have been appropriate to take a video call.
The first item on his lounge wish list would be the addition of individual booths where you could take private calls. If you’re planning ahead for how you’ll make use of your time in a departure lounge, you’ll probably want to save your confidential calls for when you’ve reached your destination.
The Bottom Line?
“My experience has been good overall,” Rafael says. “A departure lounge can give you enough privacy and tools (e.g., reliable WiFi and comfortable chairs) to work remotely or re-energize in between flights. Some of them have better food than others, but for the most part, the food is good enough. Having shower rooms available is a big plus if you’re planning to go to a business meeting right after your trip. Their bars can also be a good place to network with other business travelers; similarly, it’s a place where you could potentially have in-person meetings if the schedule allows it.” As frequent business travelers, the team at Shep knows that using your time on the road strategically can greatly improve your business travel experience. Shep gives travelers the flexibility to make travel plans that can maximize their access to resources like airport departure lounges, without having to book off-channel or go outside company travel policy. When you arrive at your destination caught up, relaxed, and refreshed, you can get down to business without missing a step.